Monday, July 22, 2013

What's the difference between...

There are a lot of homophones that I've wondered about because I've seen the spellings used interchangeably--or at least that's how it seemed.  I often chalk things up to British-American spelling differences, but I learned of a couple recently while proofreading a book that reminded me to actually look up these things rather than forgetting to do so.

The first word is "blonde" and "blond".  I did actually think that blonde is the correct spelling for no real reason, but it turns out there is difference when you use one as an adjective and one as a noun.  I'd use the e when it's a noun, as in That guy I met the other night was a blonde.  However, when I want to describe the hair colour, I'd have to spell it without the e, as in Her hair was short and blond.  My first mystery is solved!

The second word is "discrete" and "discreet".  The first spelling is the less common one and refers to separating or detaching from others and is the antonym to "continuous".  When I thought about it after seeing this definition, I realised I had most likely seen this word used a lot in the academic journal articles and textbooks I read in university because they would often refer to discrete units of things.  The latter spelling is the more common one we would use all the time when we're trying to be secretive or just covert about something.  One definition I read even stated that it means to judicious, cautious, discerning, and prudent.  Now I know the difference, and my second mystery is solved! It's actually a relief to me! ;o)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

As assault on superlatives

I know I've talked about superlatives before, but really, Grammarly, a popular editing and proofreading company with a large following and active presence on Facebook,  committed one of my biggest pet peeves the other day.  They used the term "more clear" instead of "clearer."  There are really easy rules to follow regarding superlatives, as this little lesson demonstrates:  In common usage these days, I hear a lot of people using "most something" when it should be the -er or -est suffix to the root word.  It drives me bananas whenever I hear it, and what bugs me more is that I catch myself doing sometimes because I keep hearing it!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Of Chinese New Year and Ukrainian Christmas

I hear people were using the phrase Chinese New Year a lot.  It even gets abbreviated to CNY sometimes.   Recently, though, it dawned on me that this isn't actually the best terminology for this occasion, and it surprised me even more that in Canada, where people try to be politically correct to a fault, that no one has as yet taken up this cause.  The more correct phrase is actually Lunar New Year.  It's already known that Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, but thing is that many other Asian countries celebrate this event as well, meaning that it could be just as correct to call it Vietnamese New Year or even Singaporean New year, for that matter!  To incorporate all the countries that celebrate it, Lunar New Year is definitely a better option.  I assume the Chinese New Year name sticks because there are just so many Chinese, population-wise, that maybe that's just what you'll end up hearing more often anyway.

I also wonder if that same cause holds true for Ukrainian Christmas in Canada.  There are a lot of Ukrainians here, especially in the prairies, and they also celebrate Christmas according to a different calendar.  But it turns out that it's not just the Ukrainians that do it.  Any group of Orthodox believers or practitioners celebrate Christmas at the same time, and non-Ukrainians actually refer to it as Orthodox Christmas.  This holiday is celebrated by many other Eastern Europeans (as that's where you tend to find more Orthodox churches), but it's also celebrated by the Coptic Egyptians, who follow a lot of Orthodox practice.

I guess if no one's offended by the less generic terms, I'm not going to get too upset about it either.  It's just that I do find it a little odd that in Canada, we're not using the most politically correct terms for these holidays.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

To loan or to lend?

For a long time, I've been wondering about when I should use loan as a verb rather than lend.  I thought there were actual grammar rules for this, but it turns out it's one of those British/American differences again!  I don't know how many times that has confused me over the years.

In American English, loan and lend are used interchangeably as a verb, but not in British English.

Now, you may wonder what this means for Canadian English.  Because our English tends to be a mixture of American and British English, both forms are very likely as acceptable in Canadian English as they are in American English.

Personally, now that I know the difference, I think I'm going to use loan as a noun only and lend as the verb because I feel like it's less confusing that way.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Condiments for meals

For a long time, it has really bugged me in restaurants when you see a description of an item served with au jus.  This is one of the French terms we use in English that just really irks me when it isn't used correctly.  Au jus is not a noun but an adjective in French and describes the way that a dish is served, usually some type of sandwich.  The juice itself is a beef-based juice, more like a broth, used for dipping your sandwich into, so on a menu, you could say "Sandwich au jus," and you should understand that your sandwich is coming with beef broth or juice.  That would be a more accurate description.  It would be like saying about pie a la mode that your pie is being served with a la mode.  It just wouldn't make sense because a la mode is not a noun but describes the way that a dessert is served, with ice cream.  Sadly, I don't think I have any hope of changing the world to fix this problem! ;o)